KAS 2016: The Moment is Now

Hindu Shastras divide human life into four limited phases of 20 years each called as Ashramas. First Ashrama is that of a student, second is that of a householder, third is of a retired person and final one belongs to a renunciant.

Now, if you are a KAS 2016 qualified candidate and wish to someday retire into the forests of Pir-Panchal, pray that you get two lifetimes. That is because the KAS exam has been delayed endlessly, most latest on the charge of ‘unrealised- expectations’ of a group of students who failed to qualify the exam and have now challenged the process in the courts. But this piece is not about them. It is about the pain that the qualified students have suffered and the need to fast-track the completion of this exam.

Nearly 40,000 students tried their chances at this exam at the Prelims stage. After a process lasting three stages and three years, just 963 candidates remain in the fray. Eventually only 277 will be finally selected. This makes for a success rate of just 0.7 percent! Thus, the exam is rigorous and unforgiving.

The qualified candidates after having successfully negotiated thus far feel they have been given a raw deal. The unnecessary delays have violated our rights to opportunity and dignified life. Our youth is wasted, our families have suffered, we are subject to mental trauma and deep financial problems.

We are victims of vested interests who have used institutional route to frustrate the selection process. These interests have further assailed our merit through a false smear campaign based on untruths and obfuscation. What is unfortunate is that our dignity in discourse has been mistaken for incompetence!

It must be stressed that we are a meritorious lot and include students who have distinguished themselves and the state at both National and International Levels. Among our ranks include toppers of professional and academic exams, students from finest of institutes such as Delhi University, IITs, NITs, JNU, Government Medical Colleges, NLU etc. To deny such candidates their merit is tyranny.

Not just us, even the state has suffered. Unlike previous years, there were zero selections in IAS from Kashmir this year as the repeated delays in KAS caused an uncertain atmosphere to compete in IAS. The new KAS 2018 exam process has also been delayed by over a year now.

Moreover, delays in prestigious exams such as KAS set a precedent for “stay-culture” wherein exams such as for Sub-Inspector, General Line Teachers etc are challenged in courts for similar frivolous reasons. All this worsens the chronic unemployment problem of J&K which is at an All India high of 25 percent in the under 30 age group.

As discussed above, out of 963 only 277 will eventually make it to the final list. What about the remaining 686? It is a humanitarian plea that the result be expedited so that these 686 can redirect their efforts towards something productive and build their careers anew. Overall, a quick decision will bring closure to the families and candidates. This exam has consumed too much in its uncertainty.

Finally, much untruth has been spread against the newly adopted exam governance technology: On Screen Marking (OSM). It seems creating false narrative against efficient technologies is the order of the day. Just like the EVMs stand accused of unfounded faults by a few political parties, so has the OSM been victim of myths and imagined faults. It is important to note that OSM is the ultimate innovation for bettering the process of exams. It follows the SMART principles.

This means the OSM is Secure as it follows fire-walling, end to end data integrity checks and high standards of data incorruptibility. It is Monitorable as the system keeps a record of pages visited by the examiner, time spent on each page. It is pro- Accountability as any candidate can request one’s answer copy under RTI Act after the exam, as per due process of law. It is Responsive to examiner’s needs as summation errors and over-attempts by students can be checked. Finally, it is Technologically Efficient as it is speedier and cost effective. Whether a student writes in pencil or in ink, draws a diagram, writes in points or paragraphs, this technology captures all of it with high fidelity.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” So said Charles Darwin. In line with this we appeal the stake-holder institutions including the Judiciary and JKPSC to recognise the grave nature of the matter and resolve the KAS 2016 Selection matter on a war footing. It will be justice, not just for us but also for the youth of the entire state.

The writer is an All India Topper of UPSC CAPF Exam & a graduate of National Institute of Technology Srinagar